Two-time Circuit ring winner Sternberg collects first gold bracelet

15 July 2019 (Las Vegas) – Veteran New York-based pro Alan Sternberg has captured the first World Series of Poker gold bracelet of his career after winning Event #84 of the 2019 WSOP, $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 6-Handed.

The 33-year-old Sternberg earned $448,392 for the victory, which more than equaled his previous career WSOP earnings of just over $385,000. Stermberg has earned over $2.5 million in recorded poker tournaments throughout his career.

Sternberg took down his first bracelet win after closing out a back-and-forth battle against Greece's Evangelos Kokkalis. Sternberg and Kokkalis entered the final table well behind early leaders Millard Hale and John Richards but surged late. Each player had a commanding lead in the final day's late levels before Sternberg closed out the win.

Kokkalis earned $277,087 for the second-place effort.

Veteran Roxana, Illinois pro Richards finished in third place in this event. Richards, a three-time Circuit ring winner, earned a WSOP career best $187,670 for his run.

Kalamazoo, Michigan's Hale finished fourth to earn $129,313. Hong Kong's Ka Kwan Lau (fifth, $90,674), and California's Joe Cheong (sixth, $64,722), a prior bracelet winner and Main Event finalist in 2010, rounded out this event's final table.

Sternberg has had some big results on other tours, but he ranks this win up there with any of them. It also turned around what had been a largely fruitless summer up until this nearly-final event.

Sternberg and his final-table foes also had to deal with an unusual distraction: waves of noise coming from the nearby Day 9 of the ongoing Main Event. “For the most part I was able to block it out,” he said. “There were a couple of moments that got very loud, and it was impossible to block it out, but most of the time I was in the zone...” not being aware of what was going on perhaps 70 feet away.

Sternberg's previous big scores were in hold'em, so this win represented a change of pace. He said, “I'm definitely better at hold'em. I've played a fair amount of PLO cash; it's not my best game, though.”

Despite that disclaimer, he and second-place finisher Kokkalis were able to reel in early leaders Hale and Richards and decide the matter for themselves.

“The main thing on my mind coming in was to make sure I got to fourth.” That happened almost immediately, with a double-bustout that got the final off to a flying start. “When we got down to four, I started getting hit in the face with the deck. I made the best hand over and over again.” Sternberg went from a tie for third to having well over half the chips in play, though there was much more action to come. He was the only player to outlast Kokkalis's own lengthy rush and then had to come from behind during heads-up play to seal the win.

“Things went kind of poorly for a while,” Sternberg said about his swiftly decreasing stack during that stretch, which also saw him give up double-ups to Hale and Richards, who at that point were his shortest-stacked foes. “But I think I played pretty well heads-up.”

The Day 4 finale began with fireworks, or more specifically, that double knockout. Joe Cheong and Ka Lau both brought short stacks to the final table, and both busted in the same hand. Cheong opened the action by raising to 210,000 from the cutoff, Lau re-potted for 720,000, almost his entire stack, Kokkalis raised again, and Cheong and Lau called for their remaining chips. They showed these hands:

Cheong –     
Lau –     
Kokkalis –     

A     flop offered each player hope, but the   turn gave Kokkalis a straight and a   river improved Kokkalis to the nut flush. Cheong earned $64,722 for sixth while Lau collected $90,674 for fifth.

More than five hours of four-handed action then elapsed before Michigan's Millard Hale busted in fourth for $176,219. Hale had survived elimination in several previous pots, but he ran out of luck in a hand against Richards. A pre-flop raising way left Hale all in with     , while Richards opened     . Richards caught both a wrap and a flush draw on the     flop, while Hale had his own draw to a high straight as well. A   turn, though, filled Richards' flush and sealed the hand, and a moot   river finished the action.

Richards climbed near the lead, but lost a large pot to Sternberg soon after, and in another dozen or so hands was on the rail himself. The bustout hand began with Kokkalis opening to 500,000 and Richards and Sternberg both calling. The flop came    . Action checked to Kokkalis, who bet 900,000, Richards check-raised all in, Sternberg folded, and Kokkalis called. Richards had     , but Kokkalis had top set with     . An   turn and   river completed the hand and left Richards to collect his $187,670 third-place cash.

Then came the duel between Kokkalis and Sternberg that saw Sternberg come from well behind to grind out the win. In the event's final hand, Kokkalis opened to 900,000 and Sternberg called. The two saw an     flop; Kokkalis bet 1,800,000, Sternberg raised to 3,200,000 and Kokkalis called for the rest of his stack. Kokkalis had     , while Sternberg had     . A   turn gave Kokkalis two pair but also gave Sternberg the Broadway straight, and a   river completed Sternberg's comeback win.

Event #85, $3,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 6-Handed, attracted 835 entrants and built a $2,254,500 prize pool. 126 players cashes and a min-cash was worth $4,489.

Others who cashed in this event included Joao Vieira (7th, $47,043), Juha Helppi (11th, $26,277), Brandon Shack-Harris (12th, $26,277), Noah Schwartz (16th, $20,209), David Williams (26th, $12,678), Robert Campbell (33rd, $10,351), Keith Lehr (34th, $10,351), and Kevin Eyster (37th, $8,628).

Final-Table Payouts:

1st: Alan Sternberg, $448,392
2nd: Evangelos Kokkalis, $277,087
3rd: John Richards, $187,670
4th: Millard Hale, $129,313
5th: Ka Kwan Lau, $90,674
6th: Joseph Cheong, $64,722

Click here for Full Results.
Click here for live updates from Event #85.